Monday, June 30, 2008


This place, this farm life, is taking me over.
A couple friends have driven out (to this faraway place) to view the land we've inhabited. I watch them on our yard tours and am shocked at the changes I see. Changes in them? No, those within myself.

Our friends arrive pristine from the city, yet in my farm clothes and muddy barn shoes I point to the bees in the center of the compost pile and my friends hop backward, with a squeal, even. I work around bees daily-we are acquainted. And until we moved here, almost no one would have seen me in "play clothes," especially ones in farm dirt. But I cannot stay clean here--I don't even try... and I step into the barnyard hay without thinking, but not so my friends. They hover at the barn's doorway.

It rains and they dash to their car for an umbrella. Me? Rain or clear--I work in both and lately my head is always wet, from rain or sweat. I just wait with a sigh for them to push the umbrella up before we continue.

I take my friends to the back meadow and they become like whirling dervishes while they swat at mosquitoes (this following a dousing of DEET, even), missing half of my meadow narration, you know, my, "See what God hath wrought..." Mosquitoes are just a fact of my new life... and I come away a little sad that my friends are distracted from the amazing beauty of all this.

My garden is one big exciting project--to me. The fire pit I'm digging is anticipatory delight. Our orchards are ever on my mind--how I worked in them today... and the projected tasks I'll do tomorrow.

But my friends see this as a lot of work, work not done by them, so not as appreciated. But delve into the work yourself and it's a delight and satisfying and the kind of labor with rewards like a good night's sleep, a little weight loss and smiles from the deep for a job completed.

I'm shocking my friends, I realize this. They know only City Debra, not the country gal stuffed down deep, hidden, all these years. When change comes suddenly, it usually brings confusion... and only time and observation will restore understanding.
I'm becoming a farmgirl--and I saw it today with the last yard tour. Or more likely? The farmgirl in me finally has a place to work out the dreams from her soul. A playground for all the games she could only stand and watch wistfully for years.... games she can throw her whole body and heart into now.


***
The above photo shows our pocket doors inbetween the diningroom and livingroom. Kinda cool.

***

And this photo is of my make-it-yourself nightstand. There's no room beside my bed for a real one, so I created one on the wall. Works great. Farmgirls are terrific at making do. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It took over a week but I finally, tonight, finished pulling the weeds and grass from around the bases of our ten orchard trees...and fertilizing them, mulching them and giving them a gallon of water, each. The ten grapevines will come next.

And today I raked another long row for my garden and added compost ... and it was the first day in a few that I didn't mow some part of our fields.

I wearily ease myself into the bathtub each night into cool water because of the heat and humidity and I notice more new little bruises upon my legs and arms, more mosquito bites... and garden dirt falls from my neck (don't ask).

I haven't been able to watch the end of any tv show in weeks--always I fall asleep upon the couch.

And in the mornings I awaken feeling stiff...

... and joyfully anxious to begin another day just like the one before...

...and happy and grateful beyond words.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

So here is inside the house... Promise me you will view these mostly as 'before pictures,' ok? After all, we've only lived here less than two weeks. :) (As always, click to enlarge any of these.)


My favorite room--the dining room. I had to paint it right away--the bright(!) yellow was a bit too cheerful for me...smile.... The blue is softer in real life. The chandelier was brown and orange so I painted it white and added my costume jewelery white pearls.


LOVE the bay window and the huge crab apple tree with the birdfeeders. Tom keeps binoculars handy.


The kitchen. Note the infamous orange countertop. Outside the window is the gorgeous view I showed you in the post below. I'm painting the top half of the walls the same blue as the dining room and the lower tiles will be white.

The baker's pantry. Love this, even in its present condition.


These next photos are of the livingroom which I'll be living with till I decide what to do with it.

The built-ins are nice. The paneling is not nice. :)



Some people like the way I store my old books in our clock. I did this in our apartment when space was tight.



A favorite corner.
Okay. Some of you have been asking for pictures of our new life down here on the farm...so... I'll show you around outside, first. (Here--grab this can of OFF! cuz you're gonna need it as you walk around.) :)

(Click to enlarge if your computer can handle huge photos. I had to upload them a whole other way and I barely figured out what I was doing... but you'll feel like you're practically here if you view them full-size.)


The view outside the kitchen window--our marsh is on the left, the meadow is beyond the break in the trees. In the chicken yard on the right I want to plant flowers and put in wood slat walkways.


The meadow, land of garter snakes, frogs and mosquitos. But I love it's quietness and I hope to make a stone floor out there then place a screened gazebo over it.


The window side of the barn and the chicken yard at the back corner. The back pasture runs behind the barn.


My garden space on the other side of the barn, the nifty compost frame and beyond the garden is our 'grape orchard.'

The amazing crab apple tree outside our dining room bay windows.


Birch trees outside our bathroom window.


Our driveway. The young apple/pear/peach orchard runs along the other side of it.

Monday, June 23, 2008


So yesterday we said farewell to our apartment. Got our deposit back. Said nice things to our nice landlord and drove away.

Mostly I was ecstatic. We'd finished the cleaning! No more having that burden on my shoulders and no more carloads of all those things you never have ready for the movers to take... carloads of junk you must then unload and unpack into your new house.

But still. There was just something about those nearly six months we lived inside that tiny place. You've heard of the movie, The Enchanted Cottage? Well, it was a kinda-sorta 2008 version of that. We'd try to explain to people what we loved about that noisy, dark-paneled apartment, but well, always we failed to convey our emotions.

I loved that place. I loved my morning routine... get up early, get Tom off to work, watch Style Network and drink my pretend coffee, straighten the house, then get dressed and made-up, grab my Mary Englebreit canvas bag and take off on foot for old-fashioned destinations. The deli down the block. The 1800's dining car made into a coffee shop. The convenience store for yogurt, peanuts and whatever little things we were out of. Or if in a mood to venture farther, I'd head uptown to the supermarket and plaza or perhaps Salvation Army or Burger King for coffee.

I did a whole lot of walking those six months, in all sorts of temperatures and weather. In my long black wool coat and gloves and hat or just my t-shirt and black slacks.

It's strange. I felt more of a sad twinge at leaving the apartment than I did our house of 15 years after we sold it. But most likely that's because I did have all those years at the house and a huge plethora of experiences and I was so very ready to leave it behind for new adventures ahead.

And I did have new adventures there in that one-bedroom apartment. Lived a whole other way (sorta) and watched the trains outside the kitchen window with a smile for their travelers inside... walked through neighborhoods where I grew used to seeing patrol cars, ambulances and empty, sagging houses. Strolled often down a street once noted in Guinness for the most bars, a street where people still live above the few shops left.

Maybe it was the newness-to-me I appreciated most. The chance to be someone or something else. I'm not sure. And again, it's not all explainable.

But you know? This whole mini-farm experience will have tons of newness, too--in spades! And I can walk to a different town, a mini-one, though the closest part is one mile away and the library is nearly a mile and a quarter. But all that walking these earlier months has prepared me, I like to think. And all that newness has prepared me, also, for accepting and appreciating all the changes and adventures I'll find here... to welcome each and be afraid of none.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A few days ago, Anonymous asked if this was our house:



Uh, no.

I look at that house and I think, "They probably don't have 1970's-orange counter tops in their kitchen."

But we do.

And in that white farmhouse, most likely there are kitchen cupboards attached to the high walls.

We don't have those. No, really...we don't have a one.

But we do have our old pine hutch top with glass doors sitting up on the (aforementioned) orange counter tops. "That's one way of getting glass-fronted cupboards," I tell Tom. "Bring your own."

(Also, we have no kitchen drawers(!) Though, fortunately, the baker's pantry has three. And two large cupboards up on the high wall.)

Our windows must be propped-up with sticks. I'll bet that white farmhouse has windows which actually stay open without a crutch.

And in the dining room of that farmhouse, they probably have walls all the same color. In our dining room half the walls are oh-so-bright yellow and the other walls are a happy shade of blue (I'm just a slow painter, especially when there's unpacking to do and a huge yard, orchard and garden to care for).

Upstairs in that fancy white farmhouse there's probably all sorts of pretty wallpaper. If you go upstairs in our house, you'll see dark, cavelike paneling in the two bedrooms up there and unpainted drywall walls of a bathroom-just-begun.

Our house also has 1970's orange and gold kitchen flooring, worn through in places... a smelly, wet basement which has flooded a few times... three squeaky, dirty, metal torn-screen doors... and wasp nests hanging from the faded green siding like strings of Christmas lights.

But you know? I love our poor, neglected farmhouse. Through her eyes, her windows, there are long-dreamed-of views. And after scads of years, she needs a friend, someone who is longing to give her a makeover. To bring her up-to-date. And to leave her much happier, much improved, than when she first welcomed us.

Friday, June 20, 2008


So yesterday after unpacking more boxes (will it never end?) I had an amazed thought. I'd not been away from the house since Monday and here it was Thursday. Not ages, just a long time for me. So I ran upstairs to get out of my 'play clothes' (as I call them here) and, because Tom was sleeping after having worked night shift, I had access to our car. I'd never even driven around town by myself since finding this house in March and I'd never visited Rite Aid, a Big Time place for our tiny community. In fact, here is a rather comprehensive list of our town's businesses, most of which are on Main Street:

Rite Aid
An old convenience store-type place with gas pumps, a tiny video rental 'closet' and hamburger stand with a few tiny tables.
True Value
Three restaurants, one summertime frosty shack
One bar
A pizza take-out , a deli
Three hair salons
An antique shop
A teeny clothes shop
One bank
A funeral home
The post office
The library
An elementary/middle school combo

... and well, that's about it.

But I love it. Of course, an honest-to-goodness supermarket would make it perfect, but how often do we get perfection? We're around nine miles from the nearest real supermarket, five or so miles from a small-time grocery.

Anyway, so I was going to turn into the Rite Aid parking lot, but a truck blocked most of the driveway, so I decided to just cruise down Main Street a bit farther. And that's when I remembered the library! We'd lived here a whole week and not once had the library entered my brain.

There's something wrong with that.

Right away as I pulled into the library's parking lot I realized I'd been unbalanced again. Too much concentration on unpacking boxes. Too much planning of my garden. Too much trying to decorate this house to completion in, like, seven days.

Of course, moving and going from city life to country life is a big deal. And moving is way, way up there on everybody's Top Stresses List. But still... forget the adventure of a new-to-me library? Moi? There was a lesson in that and I think I learned it. Slow down... in its correct time, all will get done...enjoy it all... and remember variety!

I loved talking with the librarian (who reminded me of Tom's mom)..... had an amazing hour wandering through the few shelves (compared to my last library), getting acquainted with the books, finding old friends like Elizabeth Enright, Eleanor Estes... and new friends as well, three of which I carried home.

Then I drove back down to Rite Aid, browsed their shelves (and gasped a lot--ah, tiny town prices. I remember them well from having lived in teensy Chester, CA for 11 years).

Then, after over-shooting our street and having to turn around (it's an easy street to miss, trust me), I ate my little tub of strawberry yogurt and began a library book, rather than returning to the boxes (which will someday be unpacked). I breathed slower, deeper, and stared out our huge dining room bay window (the dining room is my favorite... I'll try to get pictures to you soon, I promise). There's an ancient, sprawling crab apple tree which fills the three windows and yellow finches visit our thistle feeder all day long--they hang upside down to eat and Tom and I smile at them.

Country life is amazing. I recommend it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I'm back in the land of the living!

The cable guy just drove away and I feel like--now--I've moved all of you, my blogging friends, out here to our old farmhouse with me. It's not lonely out here, but rather, just incomplete without each of your faces and smiles.

And oh my goodness. From Day One we've felt like two kids who have come home.

Everything feels like play. I drag large pine branches (which Tom cut down) out to the woods beside our meadow and it feels like an adventure. I bring back sticks from out there to use as kindling, branches which have fallen from the young meadow trees, and I feel nine years old. (Out in the meadow I have gazed up into the sky and whispered "thank-you" one-hundred times.) I dig in my garden and it's like playing in the dirt. I set-up my work bench in the barn and feel giddy.

Playing. A working vacation. Life in the country. Always something to do--always a pleasant task to choose. And I hope we will always see the work to be done as a joy, for that will color our life here.

There are un-fun things, of course. Our windows are not fun. We knew they were bad, but not as dreadfully bad. They fall down and must be propped up with sticks and it's all I can do to lift the large ones.Oh well, already Tom has gotten two estimates for replacing them and three more estimates will be in by Monday.

Tom and I keep reminding each other "inch by inch, anything's a cinch." We both find ourselves cranky whenever we try to make this place completely ours in, like, two weeks.

But that is something which takes a long, long time and what matters most is that we enjoy the adventure.


****
Thanks for your many comments to my last post! I loved opening my computer after so long and finding you waiting for me.

Oh! Remember the dairy which delivers milk in glass bottles? Well, on Monday they pulled into our neighbors' driveway and you should have seen me sprint across the street to speak to the driver in the old-fashioned red and white truck. He gave me a price list (very reasonable) and he'll deliver to us next Monday!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I keep forgetting to tell you this.

In our area, there is a family-run dairy which still delivers milk in glass bottles to your door from their old-fashioned milk trucks. They've been in business for something like 80 years.

Can you believe that?

So when we move out to the country into our 130-year-old farmhouse we are going to sign-up the milkman to come to our house to deliver our milk in bottles. And our eggs and cheese and butter.

I'm sharing that because I know it will make my old-fashioned kindred spirits smile. And when you hear people say that The Good Old Days are forever gone, you can say, well no, not quite. :) ...
... which is what I hope you tell people already. For yes, the world has greatly (greatly!) changed in negative ways (finally Miss Pollyanna--me--was able to admit that this year), and yet there are still plenty of old-fashioned, just-like-yesterday stuff to be discovered.
But only if we'll keep our eyes opened and expect to find it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


So it was time to begin painting our old farmhouse. Before making the long trek out there, I stopped at Sherwin Williams here in town with my blue paint chip in my hot little hand, the one I'd taped beside the huge bay windows to watch the effect of the light upon it all day.

I'd made up my mind to buy a low-toxic paint this time, first time ever in the thirty years I've been painting our rooms, so I walked into the store and asked the salesman if they carried one of the new low-toxic paints. He reached for a can on the shelf and gave me a neat little spiel about how it was low in this and that, plus, it was 25 percent off price-wise. Nice. I was out of there in less than five minutes.

But on Saturday, also on my way out to the farmhouse, I first stopped at our local Value Home Center to see if they, too, had a low-toxic paint, but perhaps for a bit cheaper. A rather elderly salesman asked if he could help me, so I asked if they carried a low-toxic paint.

Immediately, I was sorry I asked.

He rolled his eyes and told me all paints are safe. Well, except for oil paints. With virtually all paints, the smell disappears within 24 hours. ("That's not the point," I thought to myself. "I want to inhale the least amount of toxins each time I dip my brush into the bucket and stand nose-to-wall.")

He went on to say that oh, yes, (a certain company) carries paint which they say is safer (he smirked), but he'd heard they were all junk. "You're practically going back to the days of milk paint and that stuff was poor." Then he laughed.

I thought, "Most likely, this guy thinks 'going green' is a big fat joke and anyone who eats organic is a deluded moron."

After just nodding and smiling and stepping away, I tried matching a different paint chip to one of theirs, but couldn't and this salesman guy practically hovered over my back. He spoke as though I'd never painted a wall in my life. I felt about 20 years old (and not in a good way, either).

Oh brother. As soon as he walked away, so did I. Right out the door.

Why am I sharing this? Because if I was like I used to be, I'd have argued with him about trying to stay away from as many toxins as possible. That's it's not just about the scent of wet paint, but a lot more. I'd have told him about my success with the lower-toxin paint I'd bought from Sherwin Williams--how, even on an incredibly humid day, it had covered quite well. I'd have told him I'd been painting rooms for 30 years and knew my way around a paint can and a paint brush. I'd have said, "Just humor me, all right? Grab a can off the shelf and tell me it's the safest one your store makes."

All spoken sweetly, of course, but I'd have told him.

But you know what that urge is called, don't you? It's an urge called Pride. Pride of having to defend oneself so the other guy doesn't think you're an idiot. Pride of having to make certain that the people around you know and understand your opinions because, hey, your opinions matter a whole bunch in the grand scheme of life and all people--if they are smart--should listen to your wise words.

But yesterday when I considered saying any of the myriad thoughts and opinions and clever retorts swirling around my brain, I just sighed. Spouting off seemed way too tiring. A complete waste of time. There was no way I was gonna change this guy's mind, so why try? He'd been around longer than I have and--most likely--is one of those people who believe, "if it hasn't killed me after all these years, then there must be nothing wrong with it."

If I'd felt God nudging me say to something, well, I would have. But alas, no nudges. No anything. So I said nothing. And I walked out to the car rejoicing that I'd kept my mouth shut. Because for me, that's progress.

Big-time progress. And big-time freedom, as well.
***
Here's an article about saving money at the supermarket (I've been reading this kind of stuff for 30 years and never tire of it).
Here's an article I found interesting about saving money on buying organic food.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We are back from an amazing weekend of camping out at our new old house. From Saturday noon till Tuesday noon we tasted our new life and found it good. Ok, not perfect--hey! There are always glitches and annoying flaws which one only discovers after one actually lives inside a house. You know, things even weathered old inspectors miss (and the sellers certainly ain't gonna mention, such as the smallest bathtub on the Planet). But we'll fix all that stuff over the years (and we'll learn to deal with the mosquitoes, ones which our neighbors--who we met--said were worse this year than they'd seen before. Alas!)

I played in the huge (weed-infested) garden, twice, in the rain. Dug around in two long rows with a shovel and rake we found at estate sales and a plastic serving spoon because I had no spade with me. I poked around in the compost pile after Tom and I moved the huge frame over so I could begin again. I started raking out the chicken coop and mowed miles of lawn (it seemed) while my body thanked me for the exercise, reminding me how it feels to move fast, fluidly, and knowing that dry throat feeling which often I knew and felt in my 20's, but much less in my 40's, lazy old thing which I've been, but shall be no longer...

...and I breathed-in gallons of good, clean countryside air, feeling like I'd held my breath for 15 years in these gas-fumed, cigarette-wafting suburbs.

Inside the house I washed shelves, snipped and laid wallpaper over them and put away some groceries, pans and dishes. And washed windows (dreadful ancient ones we'll replace). Naomi and Carl came over Sunday afternoon for the grand tour, both inside and out on the land, and we sat on wicker furniture in our bay-windowed dining room and had such a pleasant visit in this new old place.

And our pine floors! They were dreadful--some parts stained, other parts painted brown and some parts bare boards. But now... the floor guys came out on Monday and Tuesday and sanded them and made them look as they must have appeared--new, blonde--back when the house was built. And you won't believe this, but one of the floor guys looked like Tom Cruise. No, really. And Tom and I giggled about that.

But here's what I wanted to tell you. It sounds like we accomplished a lot, and yet there were whole hours I just sat and stared out at the land in deep silence. God kept hushing me, drawing me away from the work to just stare at all that green, green pasture land and trees of all sorts. He reminded me that what matters most is that I seek Him first--for when I do--everything else will get done. In due time. And in the right order, with a million less mistakes (always I make mistakes when I run ahead of Him).

So I stared in quietness and just healed from a hundred tiny--mostly unnamed and unknown--hurts and scratches and slights. You know, what you are wounded by from just being alive. And I found that quiet place again, the one inside. The one which drew me to the countryside, the one which draws me to Him.


***
I so appreciate your congratulatory comments!

P.S. Can anyone recommend a 'natural' mosquito repellent? I'm always nervous using the stuff like OFF, etc. I'd appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!